Doctor sentenced to prison for distributing opioids, fraud

Hands clutching prison bars
A Kentucky doctor will serve four years in prison for prescribing opioids to patients in exchange for cash.

A 71-year-old Kentucky doctor was sentenced this week to four years in prison for prescribing opioids to patients for no medical reason and for fraudulently billing the state's Medicaid program.

A federal judge sentenced George Kudmani, who was convicted by a jury in January of 19 counts of unlawfully distributing controlled substances and eight counts of healthcare fraud following a seven-day trial, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky. The doctor was acquitted of the most serious charge, of prescribing a substance that led to a patient’s death, according to the Courier-Journal.

Kudmani operated an obstetrical and gynecological medical practice in Louisville from 1980 until 2012 and prescribed opioids to patients with substance use disorders, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office announcement.

“Despite his physician’s oath to do no harm, Dr. George Kudmani recklessly prescribed opioids, for no legitimate medical purpose, to patients suffering from substance use disorders. I hope today’s sentence will bring some measure of closure to those patients and families harmed by Dr. Kudmani. I hope, too, this sentence will send a message to physicians that prescribing opioids outside the scope of legitimate medical care will be punished,” said U.S. Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr. in the announcement.

The amount of money Kudmani will be required to forfeit and pay victims as restitution will be determined at a later date by Chief District Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., who sentenced Kudmani.

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Evidence presented at Kudmani's trial showed a typical first-time patient would pay $75 for a gynecological exam and then typically pay $35 in cash during later visits to receive a prescription for oxycodone or hydrocodone without a physical exam. Multiple patients testified they paid cash and were prescribed opioids for years.

Kudmani was also convicted of healthcare fraud for billing Kentucky Medicaid by submitting claims for medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, for ultrasounds not performed and billing for reports never prepared for patients. Kudmani must also pay $2,600 in special penalties and serve three years of supervised release.

Fighting healthcare fraud is a priority for the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with a major area for fraud prevention on opioid-related cases, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the DOJ’s criminal division said at the American Bar Association's annual Institute on Health Care Fraud in May.

RELATED: Amid deep cuts across HHS, Trump’s budget maintains focus on healthcare fraud enforcement

The Trump administration has also signaled a strong commitment to taking on fraud in its budget proposals, which, despite significant cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services and medical research programs, added $70 million to the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control program.